This Little Underground 

Bao Le-Huu takes on Jeff the Brotherhood, the Kills, Jucifer, Lydia Loveless and more

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In this week’s column: zerotalk about the Super Bowl halftime show!

The Beat

Besides being another band featuring former members of Be Your Own Pet that’s actually better than BYOP, the boys in Nashville duo Jeff the Brotherhood (Jan. 29, House of Blues) are actual brothers, though neither of them are named Jeff. So cryptic! Anyway, what they are is 100 percent legit. I love my two-piece rock bands and all but, man, these cats are one of the most full-sounding and indisputable duos I’ve heard in a very long time. Besides a fuzz-groan guitar tone that’ll shave your head in two nanoseconds flat – which counts for a lot here – they unleash an outsized sound with nicely controlled force. They unequivocally do the fully flared, cock-out rock & roll with gigantic, hairy riffs, but they do it with a concise, Ramones-esque instinct for the essential. And the result is all muscle.

Headliner the Kills brought a much improved show. Before, their garage minimalism sometimes sounded flimsy live. But this time, they featured a theatrical setup with two additional standup percussionists on an array of floor toms to back them up a la Big Pig. And these bangers added both sonic and visual depth to their show. Add in the power and presence of the incomparable Alison Mosshart and, well, you’ve got a big cannonball of deliciously carnal rock. This is some seriously sexy shit. Even with mechanized beats, their music is still smolderingly animalistic. And their now-complete live package underscored how surprisingly well they bridge rock, blues, garage, punk and even throbbing pop. Finally, they deliver a performance that lives up to their name.

And then there was Jucifer, who basically took the wattage of a big room and packed it all into a small one later that night (Will’s Pub). Something about Edgar Livengood swinging drumsticks by the handful, Gazelle Amber Valentine’s unrelenting guitar growls, and that Wall of Amps just never gets old. And I still love that everything about their presentation is built to intimidate. Viva Jucifer.

Since Orlandooom was partly behind this show, this is a good time to mention important news on the local promotion group. Over the past year these guys have been doing superlative booking work in the heavy scene, which is why it’s noteworthy that they’re suspending their concert organizing activity for the most part. But don’t sweat, that blazing Viking torch is being passed on to 90 Proof Productions, a new upstart headed by Ryan Pemberton, a key Orlandooom member who’s been centrally involved in the dark syndicate. Besides experience, dude’s got good taste, so expect the sweet punishment to continue under this new flag.

As usual, one-man band Scott H. Biram impressed as headliner for a Bloodshot Records showcase (Feb. 4, The Social). He’s the good ol’ boy cousin to Bob Log III and, although not as original or insane, he’s a certified ass-kicker through and through. Dedicated to his caricatured honky persona enough to sport a tattoo of a chicken drumstick on his forearm, Biram doesn’t exactly shy away from absurdity. But with a rubber-burning performance style that renders country and blues with punk spirit and heavy metal hellfire, he does it with balls.

But the surprise of the night was Ohio opener, 21-year-old Lydia Loveless. Like a honky tonk-hardened Neko Case, this big-voiced little lady is the real Mac. Though she packs all the grace idealized by the feminine voice, her hard-edged country is fueled by an attitude that’s not to be trifled with – it could probably drink your machismo under the table. And adding nice body to her songs was the accompaniment of an upright, occasionally bow-stroked bass.

Later that night was local band Chasing Jonah (Will’s Pub), whose female-fronted sensibility is just about the polar opposite of Lydia Loveless. Now, history shows that little good ever comes from acts whose names combine a continuous present tense verb and a biblical name. (Breaking Benjamin, to name one.)

But no particularly serious crimes were perpetrated here. Their music is innocuous and devoid of any edge, but it’s soft-core pop-rock done pretty well. Frontwoman Ashley Dudukovich has a pleasing, heart-on-sleeve voice. And whether vanilla is your flavor or not, Chasing Jonah’s songs at least hit their marks.

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